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tv   The Stream  Al Jazeera  June 22, 2014 12:30pm-1:01pm EDT

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>> they can't wait for the baton to be handed to them for the 2018 world cup. they are playing belgium right now. it's goalless with over half an hour of the match played. get full analysis and results of the match and all of the other games being played by logging on to aljazeera.com/sport. suing the drug companies, alleging misinformation ad campaigns that get americans deliberately hooked for profit. later, alcoholics anonymous turns 79 this month, but does it actually work? startling revelations from those who say it's time to challenge america's darling when it comes to addiction treatment.
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♪ >> my digital producer bringing all of your feedback throughout the conversation. i know you and i were talking earlier as we were researching this show. americans consumed 90% of all of the painkillers worldwide. >> that's mind blowing. >> we have a nation of addicted -- basically addicts. it's terrifying. one of those shows, it's sobering and blame goes around. our community, has been pharma promoted addictive painkillers? jackson tweets should not this read when hasn't big pharma....? hour, flipped, the internet has people diagnosing themselves and thus becoming hypo con democratics at the same time.
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he said this is a systemic for sale. all of the signs of this debate. >> definitely getting into that issue of whether it is a systemic failure. there has been a staggering search in prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths over the last 15 years and new lawsuits point the finger at pharmaceutical companies but not just any lawsuits. in claims reminencent on the war on tobacco, two california counties filed cases against five of the largest drug companies accusing them of causing the nation's drug epidemic by running deceptive advertising aimed at boosting drug sales. now chicago, after spending millions on er visits it blames on false advertising fuels addictions. are companies deliberately downplaying the danger of painkillers for profit? here to discuss this further out of los angeles is lisa guerian and on keep from san francisco, erin marie daily, a freelance
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journalist and author of "generation rx: a story of crisis". >> erin lost her brother to drug addiction. thank you to both of you for joining us. your investigation to the "l.a. times" changed the topic you looked at the connection between prescription drugs and drug overdose deaths. what did you discover? >> right. well, scott glover, we first reported that we discovered out of cdc's statistics that drug deaths had surpassed traffic accidents as a source of mortality. at that point, we decided to discuss the overdose problem. at that time, conventional wisdom was this is this is an issue of abuse, kids taking pills out of their parents' medicine cabinets, that kind of thing. so we decided to take a look at
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that and see how valid that was. we collected nearly 4,000 death reports from coroners. all involved drug overdoses. what we discovered was in nearly half of the cases, people died all or in part on drugs that were prescribed to them by a doctor. and that kind of started to re-focus the conversation on the practice of medicine? >> absolutely. erin, you lost your brother eight years ago to a drug overdose that began with an escalation of prescription drugs. him? >> well, so pat became addicted to painkillers when he was in high school. and it seems based upon the research i did for my book that this is really just something that it is very available in high schools and for kids. he did become addicted in school
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just because pills were sort of what kids were doing recreationally and pretty quickly progressed to heroin and died of a heroin overdose when he was 20. >> it's interesting, lisa and erin because your brother started out with prescription drugs and escalated to heroin. those prescription drugs were prescribed by a physician. lisa as you reported this out, did you get a sense from any of the interviews that you did about what was possibly motivating doctors to over prescribe in the first place? >> yeah. and it's not -- we are not really -- we didn't make any determination about whether or not doctors over prescribed. we really looked at the end result and found that they were, you know, their prescriptions were contributing to a high percentage of the deaths. but we found a range of motivations among doctors. you know, first and foremost, doctors, most of them get into it because they want to, you know, help people and when
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you've got a patient in pain, you know, you want to do something about it. and these pills, at least initially, do help stop the pain. when we found that people got into trouble is when they were on them for long periods of time and sometimes they became addicted and that is often what proceeded an overdose death. >> we have ray who says in my 26 years as a cop, this painkiller addiction is the worst problem i have witnessed. he said pain pills are given to help but end up causing addiction to people who have no intentions of drug use. chicago is now suing five sarm suitcable companiesing aking painkillers jennifer said honestly, it's so much more regulated here this is what she called illegal drug cartel. >> erin, chicago, sants a clara and orange county that have launched lawsuits saying they have made misleading statements about the alleged benefits and risks of these painkillers. what forced these counties to
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lawsuit? >> i think it's just the shear number of deaths that we have been seeing. when i was in orange county doing the research, it was stagnating. i felt like almost every other day i was hearing they had passed away either of painkiller overdose or heroin, it was shop shocking to me. really, it was something where the authorities looked at it and said we have to do something about this. i do think that there are factors that have contributed to this epidemic but any efforts that result in holding these drug makers accountable for deceiving consumers and doctors about the potential risks of these drugs is welcome. >> we reached out to a number of pharmaceutical companies. all declined to come on our show. jay and jane
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jansen provided a statement jane's pain medications. we are committed to supplying healthcare providers with complete, accurate information. we prevent misuse by supporting educational programs about the safe and responsible use of pain medicines. to defend against the claims in these lawsuits. . >> when you look at these lawsuits -- and there have been some in the past that result in tens of millions or hundreds o pharmaceutical company. when you look at this as a $330 billion a year industry, those kind of numbers are just a tiny little nick in their profits. do these types of lawsuits have any sort of effect on the overall problem that we are talking about here? >> we will see. this particular lawsuit or this
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group of lawsuits, from the california counties in chicago is a new idea where municipalities are trying to hold fapharmaceutical companies responsible for, you know, their expenses related to addiction and overdose. >> a if they are successful and b if it has an impact. the lawsuits are similar, however, to, you know, the wave of litigation that various jurisdictions took against the tobacco industry. multiple -- it was similar in the sense there were multiple plaintiffs and defendant companies and in that case, absolutely. things changed when it came to how cigarette manufacturers advertised and promoted their products and we also saw smoking rates go down in this country. so that did have an impact, and this litigation has the possibility of being similar just in the way it's kind of going forward. >> we have some community voice here jeb on facebook writes, i remember first time i took
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painkillers about 17 years ago. i knew they were addictive. it has never been a secret. if used right, they are not that bad. but over prescribed medications, there is no host for veterans and a loss of willing people to make a lifestyle change. >> you are going to stick around thanks so much to erin daily for being here. your doctor may not be the neutral clinician. the strong ties between some physicians an the course of treatment. the new law that will give you unprecedented access into the hidden relationships between drug reps, hospitals and doctors. we assumed they work. the 12-step programs like alcoholics anonymous are accused of being outdated and ineffective. a rare look at rehab and whether some are more feel good than do good.
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welcome back. we are discussing the relationship between america's pharmaceutical industry and the nation's prescription drug crisis. a new clause in the affordable care act will for the first time ever allow average citizens to search a federal website to see all of the perks given to physicians by pharmaceutical companies called the sunshine act. it aims to provide more trans piece for the long-held influence many say drug reps have had over what medicines are being prescribed. onset to discuss this further is dr. sammy almashat, a researcher welcome. >> thank you for having me. >> we are talking about marking campaigns on the part of the pharmaceutical holes that many are alleging mislead the public, that there is a decreased risk of addiction? i get how the
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public can be duped. how did doctors become that easily swayed? aren't we safe to assume doctors aren't going to be sucked into these advertising campaigns and marketing cam pangs of pharmaceutical companies? >> one would like to think so. the reality is from the moment a doctor enters medical school and their training and they are naive and open to different sources of information, they see these drug reps around their school interacting with their professors,ae accepting free lunches. it becomes an acceptable practice. they take that with them when they finish training. the rest of their career, they are exposed to these drug representatives and at conferences n their clinics, and usually other doctors who they respect will speak to them touting a drug. >> so it's very hard to combat that if you ask any doctor, and causes them to prescribe. i am above
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that. if you look at the data, it's extremely effective. doctors are swayed by these. >> in the case of opioids, the source, there is no evidence. safety of these drugs. the companies are not required to study these in long-term studies. and then, it takes usually 10 years to really find out what this drug does. when you combine this lack of evidence with these perks on the side and these sales pitches, it's not unexpected using huge numbers and for uses for which they are never approved. >> some sort of personal relationship with the pharmaceutical companies. do you have any sense of what qualifies as a relationship? what does that mean? anything can expand from a research to perform a study and
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the doctor will usually get a substantial sum of money to do the study for the company. the company wants certain results out of that study. >> it's not overt. there are subtle biases that direct the course of the research other things for example doctors being hired to speak to other doctors touting these are thought leaders in the medical profession. the companies go after doctors who are well-respected. and their colleagues trust them. >> lucrative for the doctors and the doctors again will say we were speaking on the evidence. if they didn't lead to sales. >> talk about the fda. the fda approved a painkiller that is 10 times more powerful than vicodin. we asked our community: will
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this increase prescription abuse? how could it not? i don't see the use for making a drug that strong. what were they thinking? every doctor, every nurse, every pharmacist, every tech i know is very worried every single one dr. sammy may, let's talk about the fda's rule on this. this is 10 times more powerful. it will actually increase drug abuse in this country? >> i think there is no doubt. every pain expert in the country is up in arms over this. to approve a drug that can be tampered with. when there there are other drugs on the market that do the same thing that are more difficult to abuse. so there is a lot of pushback over this approval. the fda's role in this unfortunately has been a negative one. the fda has been asleep at the wheel since this began about 10 or 15 years. more and more potent drugs without requiring long-term studies.
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once the drugs are approved, the companies make their money and they reduce a study 10 years after approval. tens of thousands of people. >> you said the fda is asleep at the wheel. what do you think is causing them to be asleep at the wheel? >> to approve the drugs. this is a case of a regulator being paid tens of billions of a year by the industry it regulates. it's called the user fee act. these are user fees. basically refers for quicker and more -- just speedier approvals. obviously, the fda is tilted towards approving drugs and away from providing meaningful benefit. the fda has recently belatedly
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changed the label of these opiod medications. there was no instruction to physicians about who should use the drugs. changed the label to require it only in severely ill patients or patients with severe pain and they approve zohydro with little oversight over marketing that negates these efforts. behind. >> ultimately, dr. amashat, who is responsible? is it doctors? our own responsibility to monitor what we are taking? pharmaceutical companies? >> you want to follow the money and that's where ultimate responsibility lies with these companies. there has been at least two cases that make these open yaweds that pled guilty to illegally marketing the drugs for uses far beyond those for which they were sprout.
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pharma takes 2006 and an opiod localli pop for people with migraine headaches and other people resulting in untold numbers of evictions. and they paid $400 million and while those may seem large sums, those are a fraction of what the expense make selling these drugs. we looked into whether these are isolated incidents a couple of years ago. what we found, unfortunately, it's systemic. every major drug company pled guilty to illegal marketing to concealing study data to paying kickbacks to doctors who accept money for? the total sum is $30 billion. the drug industry is the biggest defrauder of the federal government by this time. it's a fraction of the profits that they make for a $300 billion industry. it's going on. it's going to continue to go on. there is not enough punishment. >> we will be looking for a book
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from you on this. lisa gerry, our apologies. dr. almashat still ahead, biggest names the best? a critical look at the number
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welcome back. alcoholics anonymous turned 79 and has been a stable in america's addiction treatment. some say that's the problem, that 12 step problems have been around so long, nobody sees if they are working. joining us from los angeles is dr. author of the book the sober tru truth. deburninging the science. from detroit michigan, tom kane, an adix psychiatrist who has experienced alcoholism. thank you both for joining us. dr. dodus, in your book, you say that the success rate information that alcoholics anonymous provides is deeply flawed. what led you to that conclusion? >> we looked at all of the studies that examined aa's success going back many, many
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years and up to the time we published the book and what they showed is that overall, the success rate for aa is between 5 and 10%, which is a lot better than zero % but the problem is that in our country, in our country, we believe that it is the defining treatment for addiction. if we send 100% of people to 12-step programs and tell them this is the way to go we are going to be failing them 90% of the time. doesn't mean aa is bad. we should be open to many other possibilities. the last thing i would say about that is it isn't just that it's new tral. when we send people there who sometimes spend years trying to get help from something that will never help them, they are wasting time and they feel bad failed. >> doctor kane if alcoholics anonymous is anonymous, how does it gauge its effectivenesses? >> well, that's a good question because because aa specifically,
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itself, does not conduct studies. we have to remember that aa is a fellowship, a society and its based upon principles of attraction rather than promotion. so aa does not promote itself. it does not contact treatment facilities, jails, courts, practitioners, et cetera, and recruit members. so, it's strictly a program of attraction. the only thing that aa does that i am aware of is they conduct a study of sample study of 8,000 members, approximately every four years to find out the demographics of the individual members and people who identify themselves as members. >> to do we have joaquin, a recovering alcoholic who sent us a video comment. give him a listen? >> on may 1st, 2013, i prayed to god to stop drinking, and i found the doors of aa.
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through aa, i have been able to stop drinking for 50 days today. i am very thankful that god was able to come into my life and remove me from the prison and torment of alcohol. >> dr. dodes, you just heard joachin. you have been critical of aa's ties to religious organizations and faith. you heard joachin. it helped him. why is faith necessarily problematic for you when it comes t alcoholism? >> it's not problematic. the issue is that it has nothing to do with addiction. it's caused harm for people who believe that they are not working hard enough or having enough faith or enough spirituality and that that's their problem. i have nothing against that at all? for many people, it actually, for many people, it's a turn-off that there is -- that aa is
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basically a faith-based organization. it started out from a fundamentalist christian group called the oxford group. bill wilson who founded aa was a deeply religious man who felt that that was the way out for people with addiction. actually, it has nothing to do with addiction. it doesn't help some people. we have been on the wrong track thinking that addiction is a deficit of spirituality. it just isn't. >> we reached out to alcoholics anonymous to join us on the program. they declined but they did, however, give us this statement which read in part, aa offers no medical treatment advice and has no position or opinion on what approaches treatment professionals should use. aa expresses know opinion and does not claim to be the best or the only way to get sober. so dr. kane, let's go with this idea that maybe there is a 5 or 10 or even 20% success rate with aa.
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that still leaves a large number of people who are failing the problem. >> at greater risk once they failed? >> that's a difficult question to answer because i am not quite sure what the problem are that are defining the failure of 80% and what is defining the success of 5, 10, 20%. there is a large variation in the activities of aa in the involvement by different people. so, it's hard to measure these and to decide what is success and what isn't. i would like to make a comment on the idea of spirituality. aa is a spiritual program, but it is not a religious program, and i would disagree with dr. dodes, that spirituality is not a part of adedictioaddiction.
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i think it's an important part if one understands the definition of spirituality per aa. spirituality is not a religious, is not equated with religion on aa even though aa originally had religious beginnings. >> the problem is when people are told this is the right treatment or best treatment and they are told as aa says that it works if you work it, they often feel worse about themselves because they are being told they are not working hard enough. or they feel hopeless because if this is the best treatment and they can't make use of it, what are they going to do. >> doctor, thank you so much. thanks to all of our guests today. until next time, waj and i will see you online.
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good afternoon. welcome to al jazeera america live from new york city. i am morgan radford. these are the stories we are following just for you. secretary of state john kerry arriving in the middle east to meet with egyptian officials and address the violence in iraq. plus these are the school girls who avoided boka haram. we will tell you how they have been coping since classmates were kidnapped. they are gearing up to watch team portugal go up against the red, white and
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